How many Swedes do a farmer, dairyman or miller know? Certainly there are significantly fewer today than fifty or a hundred years ago. Personally, I usually boast that both grandfather and great-grandfather were farmers, but actually I also grew up with both the milk, the meat and the eggs coming from the store. Now, two crises have opened our eyes to those who make sure we get food on our plates.
Fewer and fewer consumers have a relationship with either our agriculture or our food production. It took an extremely hot summer - the drought 2018 - and a global pandemic to remind us how important it is that there are those who cultivate the land, take care of the animals and refine what we put on the plate. All of a sudden, a word like the degree of self-sufficiency has become dusted off and become an issue, as has the local food - which more and more debaters and decision-makers have begun to speak out for. But what makes the food local? And how local is Swedish food really?
Today, we spend about every other food crown on Swedish food. In addition to what cannot be produced in Sweden - such as coffee, tea and citrus fruits - a large proportion of the food we eat is imported. This means that there is plenty of room to promote local production.
It is often emphasized in the debate that Sweden has a degree of self-sufficiency of approximately 50 percent, but that does not seem to be the case when you think about it. Namely, we import a wide range of inputs such as fertilizers, chemical pesticides, fuels and animal feed to produce Swedish food.
Self-sufficiency "for real" is about avoiding importing inputs and animal feed from other countries. And here is a lot to learn from Sweden's 5000 organic farmers. They use local resources and work in cycles - methods that both the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, as well as the UN Climate Panel, IPCC, see as important tools for more sustainable land use. In return, we get biodiversity, living soils, clean water, extra good animal husbandry and healthy food.
Swedish consumers are now more than ever showing a commitment to the local eco-food. We see interest in the growing number of farm shops, local food markets, REKO rings, box subscriptions of pasture meat and organic vegetables. Stores - for example Hemköp - also play a crucial role. By offering a wide range of locally and locally produced organic and KRAV-labelled foods, the grocery trade can contribute to less imports of both food and inputs and promote more sustainable production.
Do we want a means of subsistence worthy of the name? Do we want world-class sustainable agriculture? In that case, we need to continue to support our organic farmers and our organic food companies, especially the local and small-scale producers who enrich our food culture with everything from bread on cultural cereals to processed legumes, charcuterie, artisanal cheese, apple juice, beer and much more.
Let's see the drought in the summer of 2018 and the Corona crisis as reminders that we need to recreate the relationship with food and the people who make sure it ends up on our tables.
Charlotte Bladh André,
The chronicle was originally published in Axfood's report Mat 2030.